OverviewNevado de los Piuquenes (it is called Mesón San Juan in Argentina) is part of a volcanic chain of high remote peaks stretching south of Tupungato, which includes
- Tupungatito (5640 m/18504 ft)
- Nevado Sin Nombre (6000 m/19700 ft)
- Cerro Alto (6110 m/200045 ft) and
- Nevado de los Piuquenes;
The next high mountain to the south is Cerro Marmolejo (6,110 m/20,045 ft);
Nevado de los Piuquenes is a strato volcano, with a caldera structure (it's wide volcanic slopes stretch into Argentina, whereas the west face is an impressive, steep rock wall), but there are no known eruptions.
The mountain is covered to 70% in ice and snow.
[Source: González-Ferrán, O.: Volcanoes de Chile, Instituto de Geográfico Militar, Santiago de Chile, 1995, p. 269-270]
Nevado de los Piuquenes was first climbed in 1933 from the Argentine side. The first ascent from Chile was done in 1954. The first ski descent was likely done in 2005 by the young Peter Schön (AUT) over the SE flank.
The Chilean IGM (Instituto Geográfico Militar) map shows 6019 m, the Argentine IGM map 6012. A DGPS survey by Peter Schön in 2005 supported the Chilean elevation.
It receives few ascents - the small summit log (a small booklet in a metal box with the German title "Gipfelbuch Nevado de los Piuquenes") still includes the entry of the first ascensionists!
There are two normal routes - one from Argentina via Refugio Real de la Cruz (route of first ascent in 1933), or from Chile via the Rio Colorado (as for Tupungato) and then the Rio Museo valley. The route from Argentina is longer and more complicated, but the one from Chile is a very long way too (largely depending on your acclimatization count on 6 to 10 days to summit).
On the Chilean side mules are avaible in Alfalfal, but they can only go as far as about 3400 m/11150 ft (1.5 days).
Standard rate is 15 000 Pesos per day per mule. Minimum days are apparently three (each way). They can be organized directly in Maitenes or Alfalfal, but allow a day for them to get ready.
Although most locals will tell you differently you can sleep in Alfalfal - there is a good small hostel there (around 5000 Pesos/night incl. food).
Getting ThereChilean side:
Getting there is quite a task if you do not have much experience with the region. You need to get to Alfalfal first, at the end of the Rio Colorado valley NE of Santiago de Chile.
To get there you have generally two possibilities:
1st possibility - renting a minibus:
Possibility one is renting a mini bus to take you there and possibly also pick you up afterward if you wish, although on the way out you can hitch-hike.
We rented a mini bus through my friend Scott Sheldon, who also own a hostel in Santiago (SCS Habitat/Scott's Place, 4000 Pesos/room), to get there, and paid 20000 Pesos/person (40 Dollars).
You can contact Scott via email: email@example.com
If you do so remember to go to San Jose de Maipo to get the stamp from the police on your permit paper (see below, "Red Tape") before heading into the Rio Colorado valley!
San Jose de Maipo is a few km's/miles further the main road from Santiago de Chile leading into the Cajon del Maipo.
Once in Alfalfal you need to get further into the valley. Close to a mine 30 km/18 mi away from Alfalfal starts the trail to Tupungato and Piuquenes. There are mine trucks going there - however, as pretty much all over Chile they are not allowed to take foreigners for insurance reasons. But quite a few still take you, some charge you though (expect to pay up to 10000 Pesos), something untypical for Chile.
Hitching out is fairly easy (see below).
2nd possibility - bus and hitch-hiking/transport with a local:
This likely cheaper way to get there is more complicated, given the fact that you will likely drag a lot of things around.
You first take a bus or metro to the metro station "La Florida". From there are buses (white, blue writing) running from Santiago into the Cajon del Maipo.
The buses go every 30 min, first bus at 7:30, and cost about 1500 Pesos, but expect to pay a bit more if you have a lot of luggage.
The Tourist Information (SERNATUR) has repeadetly passed out WRONG information about the buses. They have good information for the average tourist, but not for climbers. This is by the way the case all over Chile, with the notable exception Copiapo in Northern Chile.
Take this bus until San Jose de Maipo to get your permit stamped at the police station. Try to find transport to Alfalfal there, perhaps with the help of the police, or hitch back towards Santiago to the Rio Colorado turn-off, and try hitching into the valley.
There is not much traffic, and the mine trucks going to Afalfal - again, they are not allowed to take foreigners for insurance reasons, and if they do, they might charge you though.
Hitching out is fairly easy - work your way back to the main road Santiago - Cajon del Maipo and Santiago (the main trucks go first from the mine to Maitenes, there you need to catch another truck that takes you as far as Santiago - Puente Alto. There buses run to Estacion Central, Providencia, etc), or catch a local going to San Jose de Maipo, and go back to Santiago with bus.
In this valley we were - really untypical for Chile - charged for hitch-hiking. So a have a few Pesos spare.
I do not have detailed information about getting to Piuquenes from the Argentine side. But this much I know:
You starting point is Mendoza. Take a bus to Tunuyan, and try to rent a driver and mules there. Not much is developed there in term of climbing and tourism. Without speaking Spanish you will not get far!
For mules in Tunuyan try to ask around for Henry Ramonda.
The village of Tupungato is another possibility for a base town. For accomodation in Tupugato (Hosteria, 25 Pesos/person), transport and mules:
Almirante Brown 1200
Corax added on Feb. 09, 2006 06:45 AM:
When in Tunyuan, ask for a person called Jaguar, he'll drive you up towards the pass, Portillo Argentina. The cost in early 2006 was Arg. Pesos 160.
Aconcagua X-perience in Mendoza can help you out with getting in touch with Jaguar prior to your arrival in Tunyuan.
The company's HQ is to be found on Mitre in Mendoza, in Hostel Independencia.
The situation onthe Chilean side is pretty much the same as for Tupungato - you need a permit.
The procedure as of December 2005 is as follows:
1. apply (possible via internet - http://www.difrol.cl/index3.htm, link at bottom of page; however, going there personally is probably faster)- for permit at DIFROL (Bandera Nº 52 Piso 5, Santiago, right in downtown, Metro Universidad de Chile).- takes a few hours if you go there personally
2. apply (you need to have the DIFROL permit for that - take it with you) for a permit at the Military (personally!) - Santo Domingo Nº 3317 (Metro Santa Ana); you have to have a written letter to the Comando de Infraestructura del Ejercito Santiago - Example letter see here (this letter is for Tupungato, Piuquenes and Cerro Alto - if you only go for Tupungato, write "La presente solicitad es para ascensiones al Volcán Tupungato".);
allow 2-3 days for the permit.
3. Register at the Carabineros in San Jose de Maipo before you start the expedition - they will stamp your permits, and w/o the stamps AES Gener will not let you pass!
4. NO permit of AES Gener (formerly ChilGener) necessary - the two permits above will suffice. You show them to the portier of AES Gener in Alfalfal.
The same applies for all peaks in the area.
No permits required!
When To ClimbGenerally the climbing season stretches from November to March, with high season being January/February.
November and early December are still colder. It seems to me that during this time there is less tendency for afternoon thunderstorms, but more for bad weather through frontal systems from the Pacific, which can bring storms and snowfalls down in 3000 m in November.
But generally the climate November to March can considered stable.
November has in some years stil a lot of snow, too, which can make ascents more strenous.
If you want to explore the region with skis - suited are basically all winter and spring, but the following periods seem best:
- August: very to brutally cold but fairly stable weather
- late September/October: warmer and again fairly stable weather. After a dry winter often little snow left, though.
September usually has unstable weather.
November can sometimes still have quite large amounts of snow on the 5000 m + peaks, depending how much snow fell in the winter. Short-skis are probably the best bet here if terrain permits.
I suggest getting the map "Cajon del Maipo" (1:250 000; Nr. 3300-6900) from the Instituto Geográfico Militar in Santiago de Chile for a good overview of the region, or one of their more detailled maps in 1:50 000.
Note: Nevado del los Piuquenes is nameless on the 1:250 000 Ch-IGM sheet, but is marked as "6019 m".
Costs 8100 Pesos. IGM maps are quite detailled and correct.
However, roads are sometimes not correct, which is not an issue on the mountain!
Erik S adds:
The 1:50 000 maps for normal route from Chile are:
- "3315 6945 Tupungato" showing the route from Rio Colorado in the north and up the valley (south) to approx. 4000.
- "3330-6945 Rio Yeso" showing from approx. 4000m to the summit. The name of the mountain is included on this map.
- The first part of the route, from the mine at roadhead up the Rio Colorado is on map "3315-7000 Rió Olivares". But if you buy the 1:250 000 which is recommended, you won't need this map.
The only place to get "proper" (the Argentine IGM is notoriously know for errorous surveys) is the IGM in Buenos Aires.
Overview of the region:
A rough overview map of the region and additional information can be found on USGS website
CampingCamping is allowed anywhere, on the Chilean as well as on the Argentine side. On the Argentine side is a refugio called "Real de La Cruz" at 2900 m/9514 ft after crossing the about 4200 m/13800ft high Portezuelo Argentino.
Mountain ConditionsI suggest contacting the mountain hut in Lo Valdes. It is run by a Dutch couple.
Link: Refugio Lo Valdes. It is the closest hut to Piuquenes.
You can also contact me. I usually know how conditions are in any given season or can contact friends who live there.
For the ones that speak Spanish/Castellano and can interpret meteorolic data the website of the Dirección Meteorológica de Chile provides information about the current weather situation.